So long for now, South London

It’s hard to believe how quickly four months have passed since we moved into our Tulse Hill house sit. South London is always a delight, and this has been no exception.

It seems apt to reflect on some of the highlights of our time here:

Not a shabby place to hang up your work hat

I got a job. That is, a ‘real’ job with regular hours and pay, holidays and sick days. The novelty of this is astounding, having juggled temp work and contracts for about five years now. Knowing where I’m going each day is a particular benefit while house sitting, too. Sometimes, in the last year while both house sitting and taking temporary assignments, there were definite moments of “where do I live right now? Where do I go to work in the morning?” Thankfully there have been no major mishaps although the time we locked up the house in Claygate on a Wednesday morning, headed to work with our day packs (having moved the bulk of our possessions on the weekend prior), and then returned ‘home’ to our new sit in High Barnet after a day’s work was fairly tiring and disorienting. By the time I disembarked from the Tube I had no idea which direction I was going. Thankfully our homeowners had kindly had offered to pick me up from the station by car. Lord knows where I might have ended up otherwise.

We visited friends and family in Canada while our Tulse Hill home owners returned home for a couple of weeks between trips. The insanity of housing costs and redevelopment in my beloved Vancouver was bewildering, but on the whole the trip proved a welcome opportunity to connect with special people and places.

A timely reminder in Vancouver’s gorgeous Gastown

We also experienced new commuting joys. Tim has covered train travel in some detail, but at this house I relied on the bus. Buses in London can be depended on for two things with confidence: they are agonizingly slow and tremendously uncomfortable. London traffic is the stuff of legend: it’s said that the average speed of traffic is 16.5km per hour, dropping to 7.4km per hour in Central London (I’m quite sure half my route was considered Central – but woe if I hyperbolise). It’s also said that the original famous red Routemaster buses had uncomfortable seats, and it seems they spared no effort to recreate that essential feature in the new fleet ordered in 2010 (it was announced last year that no more of these buses would be ordered due to substantial design flaws, although the seats aren’t named as one of those.) At least with the old Routemasters you could take a running leap onto the open back platform, being of course careful not to fall off. It seems to me that would offer a potentially faster journey, as you could run and catch the next service ahead of yours on a particularly slow traffic day. Alas it seems too many did fall off attempting to board the bus while in motion, so they now travel fully enclosed.

London’s brilliant Christmas lights, scattered in memorable displays across the centre. We’ve taken a closer look here, but it’s worth remembering.

Tim enjoys the views from Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge

We enjoyed Christmas in Bristol with good friends. Readers will know that we were privileged to spend a three-week house sit in Bristol last Christmas and it was fabulous despite the boiler blowing out on the morning of Christmas Eve (we spent a lot of money trying to keep warm in front of a terribly inefficient fireplace – heating the neighbourhood rather than the room, it seems – and were grateful beyond words to the neighbours who loaned us two portable heaters.) This year we booked an Airbnb that was very well heated indeed, while the weather was perfect for long jaunts along the waterfront, over the suspension bridge, and up trendy Gloucester Road.

We took a couple of visits to Oakleigh Park, in Barnet, London, to get to know the couple we’re sitting for now, along with their two sweet cats. We are privileged to sit for some very lovely people, and these are no exception.

The Starman’s birthday tributes in his native Brixton

We visited the famous Bowie mural in South London’s Brixton neighborhood,  quite by accident on what would have been the Starman’s 70th. The mural has become something of a pilgrimage site as it is, but on this day the tributes were plentiful and beautiful. In January we enjoyed our first off-Broadway play, Lazarus, for which Bowie provided the songs. The King’s Cross Theatre is a fabulous pop-up venue, although it would benefit from more steeply graded seating. The play was average although the cast, musicians, and score were outstanding.

A weekend retreat in Brighton in a cozy North Lanes cottage proved a perfect tonic for a too-short Christmas break. By now Tim has mastered fireplaces, so we spent three evenings firmly ensconced in front of one, books in hand, while by day we took in the colourful, laid-back, creative vibe of the city and the general chaos of fair-goers, buskers, and seagulls at the shore. I’m not sure I’d like to be there in the height of summer when the beach crowd arrives and it all goes really bonkers.

Cozy Brighton cottage: Fireplace and books for an excellent January retreat

We took the opportunity while there to refresh the look of our Lost Colonials blog and to build a dedicated Facebook page that makes it even easier for owners to find us and to connect.

As we settle back into North London, quite literally down the road from the house sit that preceded Tulse Hill, I reflect on the immediately apparent differences between North and South London. Both have beautiful green spaces, Tulse Hill being on the southern edge of lovely Brockwell Park, while in Barnet we are spoiled with a gorgeous and well-manicured garden running all around the house; here the green seems more widespread across the neighbourhood while Tulse Hill must contend with the massive South Circular Roadway cutting a swath through it. Yesterday we said goodbye to three different sets of lovely neighbours who held flats in the same house; here we enjoy the solace of a detached home (where some of us can sing our lungs out unabashedly), a rarity across much of London. The commute remains to be seen: Tim’s appears nearly identical; I’m switching from a one-hour bus trip to a 50-minute ride on a combination of train and Tube service.

Taking to the new house sit as if just a part of the furniture

For us, it’s all a brilliant adventure. Each place has its merits and quirks, and it’s a delight to discover and explore these. While we are sad to go from Tulse Hill, we are enjoying the company of our new pussycat friends Nelson and Carla, affectionate and enlivening as they are to the home. We look forward to getting to know them – and our surrounds – much better over the weeks to come.


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